For nearly a decade, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has tried to pass a law that would remove military commanders from their role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault.
On Thursday, Ms Gillibrand was joined by several lawmakers from both sides to announce her latest effort, which has attracted a new and wide array of support that dramatically increases her chances of becoming law.
“We owe it to our military to do more to prevent these crimes and prosecute them when they occur,” said Ms. Gillibrand, whose bill would require specially trained military prosecutors to decide whether or not to try crimes of aggression. in the army, taking this decision away from the commanders.
Joined her. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans from Iowa, as well as Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, and Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, joined her.
“She is our leader. I’m trying to help, ”Grassley said. “If you’re right, you’ll win in the United States Congress in the end. Sexual assault cannot be tolerated anywhere, but especially in the military. “
Ms Ernst lobbied for many prevention efforts to be added to the bill before naming the bill after her.
Those who bring their sexual assault charges to commanders say they often face retaliation, and many also say perpetrators are often not brought to justice. The number of sexual assault cases has remained high for years, according to military statistics.
“Like so many other survivors, I made the difficult decision to report what happened to me,” said Amy Marsh, a military wife who was assaulted. She added that she and her family had been repeatedly harassed.
If there had been a prosecution process outside the chain of command, Ms Marsh said, “Maybe I would have had a chance to share my side of the story. My conviction is that our armed forces cannot shy away from what is right. “
In 2019, the Department of Defense found that there were 7,825 reports of sexual assault involving military personnel as victims, a 3% increase from 2018. The conviction rate for cases remained unchanged from 2018 to 2019; 7% of cases the command took action on resulted in a conviction, the lowest rate since the ministry began reporting in 2010.
While military leaders and the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee have resisted change for decades, members of a new group reporting to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin II have made recommendations similar to the proposed legislation.